13 November 2007

Brown's Britain -- The Elderly

- Should a person retiring in Britain receive 30% of the average UK wage -- whilst, the European average is 60%?

Donald Duval, chief actuary at Aon Consulting UK: "It is a difference of philosophy and a different view of the role of the state. In most of Europe, it is believed that the state's obligation is to ensure that people have a reasonable standard of living, relative to what they had when they were working. In the UK, the role of the state is to ensure that people do not starve. If people want to have more than the basic level, they need to save for themselves."

The UK state pension scheme is heavily reliant on funding from immigrants, as 50% more foreigners move here than to other countries. Mr Duval said that this boosts the working-age population, offsets some of the side-effects of an ageing population and leads to increased contributions to UK payouts.

"Migrant workers have helped boost the pension pot in the UK but this is not a sustainable measure and is a smokescreen hiding deeper issues facing the pension system," he said.

- Should pensioners struggle with fuel poverty, year upon year upon year?

"The Government now needs to ensure that all pensioners in private housing can access schemes to insulate their homes, tackle fuel poverty and help our older generation to lead the way in changing lifestyles."
- We need to have regular exercise, from age 40/50 onwards, so that people can enjoy their extra years in retirement:

A gentleman in his late 70s crawls through a plastic tunnel on his hands and knees and then prepares to roll down a small slope onto a mat.

"He must keep his arms straight above his head as he rolls. This helps strengthen his back muscles ... Good balance is important for reducing falls in older people and a small amount of impact, we have found, makes the bones stay stronger."
- To be blunt, should poorer pensioners die younger than rich pensioners?

The average physical health of a 70-year-old high earner was similar to the physical health of a low earner around eight years younger. In mid-life, this gap was only 4.5 years. Among high earners, retirement appeared to improve their mental health and wellbeing. But no similar improvement was seen in the lower occupational groups.

Tarani Chandola, from University College London, said: "There has always been an assumption that the health gap gets narrower with age as people retire. Retirement does not level the playing field. These health inequalities actually increase. This is not a time to get complacent."

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